KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Baylor heard all the pundits clamoring for one more Kansas-Missouri matchup, this time in the Big 12 tournament title game. It didn’t matter that those teams needed to win in the semifinals. The tantalizing rematch seemed to be fate.
“You never want to get disrespected,” the Bears’ Quincy Acy said, “so we came in with the mindset this week to win every game.”
They’re 2 for 2 so far.
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Sharpshooter Brady Heslip hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep No. 3 Kansas at bay, and Perry Jones III finished with 18 points in an 81-72 upset of the Jayhawks on Friday night.
It will be the 12th-ranked Bears who will face No. 5 Missouri or Texas for their first championship.
“This was a night we grew up,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Quincy Miller added 13 points and eight rebounds, and Pierre Jackson had 11 points and seven assists for the Bears (27-6), who lost to the Tigers in their only previous Big 12 title game.
“We were just more focused, and we’re playing as a team,” Jackson said. “Once we’re all clicking like that, we’re hard to beat. We know what time of year it is.”
Tyshawn Taylor had 20 points for Kansas (26-6), which used a big second-half charge to briefly take the lead. But the Bears hung tough down the stretch, and Heslip’s two 3-pointers — one with 2:03 remaining, the other with 1:12 left — allowed them to hang on.
No team from Texas has ever won the Big 12 tournament.
Baylor will get another chance.
“They beat us. Make no mistake about that,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
The last time the Jayhawks lost to Baylor was in the quarterfinals of the 2009 conference tournament, when they were also the top seed. Now they’ll spend the rest of the weekend waiting for their seeding in the NCAA tournament, where many expected them to receive a No. 1 spot.
Thomas Robinson finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Kansas. Elijah Johnson added 15 points but was 1 of 6 from beyond the arc, while Jeff Withey added 11 points.
“The thing that was most disappointing to me is we played a style that is just good enough to get your butt beat,” Self said. “Average energy, we let them pass wherever they want to, we never dictated defensively, crappy traps on the post, not paying attention to the scouting report.”
That about covers it.
Baylor took a 15-8 in the opening minutes and, with the exception of a couple flurries by the Jayhawks, managed to hold the advantage all the way to halftime.
Jones looked as if he never left the Sprint Center after his epic 31-point outing against Kansas State in the quarterfinals. He had 10 points and five boards by halftime, once going way up for an alley-oop jam off a pass from Jackson that seemed headed for the cheap seats.
“They’re a great team,” Jones said. “When they get on runs it’s hard to stop them. Just trying to get rebounds and defend against second-chance points.”
The Jayhawks trailed 43-35 when the teams hit the locker room, and they were fortunate it was that close. Robinson, the Big 12 player of the year, was held to five points and one rebound in 13 minutes, forced to spend the final five on the bench because of foul trouble.
The Bears kept building on the lead in the second half, going ahead 53-40 on Acy’s basket with 16:32 left. Little did they know it would be their last one for a while.
Taylor started the Jayhawks on an 18-3 push with an easy basket, and after Acy blew a dunk, Robinson scored underneath. Kansas started to get into transition, where it’s at its best, and Taylor eventually rattled in another 3 to get the Jayhawks within one with 12:52 to go.
The senior guard shrugged his shoulders on his way back to defense, the Sprint Center coming alive with the crowd heavily favoring the school about a 30-minute drive from Kansas City.
“We started playing how we played,” Taylor said. “We started defending a little bit.”
Withey’s three-point play and a basket by Robinson gave Kansas a 58-56 lead, its first since midway through the first half, but it wound up being short-lived.
Baylor scored the next nine points, four of them coming on Jones’ first buckets of the second half, and still led 65-60 on a pair of foul shots by A.J. Walton with 6:08 left.
Taylor and Robinson managed to get to the foul line for Kansas, but Heslip’s 3-pointer with 2:03 left gave Baylor a 70-64 advantage, and his next 3 with 1:12 go made it 73-66.
Except for a small contingent of Baylor fans, the arena was quiet the rest of the way.
“Very pleased with our guys from the standpoint we’ve been successful against Kansas before in spurts, and then they’d have a spurt and we couldn’t answer the run,” Drew said. “When they made a run tonight, I was really pleased with the character of our guys.”